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How Does Sleep Quality Affect Cognitive Health?

Lack of quality sleep has a negative impact on cognitive function and could thus lead to low productivity. It reduces attention span, diminishes memory, makes it more difficult to learn, and affects decision-making negatively. If you are in the habit of skipping a night’s rest for work or school engagements, you will likely have a change of heart after reading this guide. It sheds light on all you need to know about cognitive health, the dangers of losing sleep, and the best way to improve your cognitive ability and productivity, by extension. Let’s dive in.

What Is Cognitive Health?

Cognitive health refers to the ability to think, learn, and remember. It is an essential component of overall health and well-being, as it enables you to perform everyday tasks and make decisions. Maintaining cognitive health is important at any age, but it becomes increasingly crucial as you get older. But it is bigger than that. It also includes other components such as emotional function, motor function, and sensory function [1].

Various factors can influence cognitive health. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • social inactivity;
  • lack of quality sleep;
  • physical health problems such as a stroke, neurological disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.;
  • a poor diet;
  • genetics;
  • lack of physical activity;
  • mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, etc.

Age is yet another factor that affects cognitive health. The brain gets older and less efficient with age (just like every other part of the body), leading to a decrease in reaction time, memory strength, and other cognitive functions [2]. To stay productive and maintain relationships, as well as other aspects of your life, you should become conscious about your cognitive health. You will find out how to improve your cognitive ability in the following sections.

Why Is Cognitive Health Important?

Maintaining cognitive health is important for several reasons. For starters, it is involved in many aspects of daily life that make it meaningful, such as learning new things, solving problems, and making decisions. Consequently, it can help you perform well in school, work, and other aspects of your life that require thinking, recalling information, and making decisions based on experiences. Another importance of cognitive health is that it can help you maintain your independence as you age, allowing you to live a more active and fulfilled life.

By taking steps to maintain and improve your cognitive health, you can potentially reduce the risk of developing conditions, such as a stroke, brain injury, and neurological disorders, and maintain your ability to think, learn, and remember the things you hold dear [3]. Also, it can help you maintain your mental health and prevent the onset of conditions such as mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Optimum cognitive health determines your way of life, the kind of work you can do, and what you can achieve.

How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus

Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on cognitive performance and focus. When you sleep, the brain reorganizes itself, processes & consolidates information, and recharges itself to help maintain its normal functioning. Without enough quality sleep, your brain would not have the opportunity to perform these essential tasks, which can affect your ability to learn, recall information, and perform tasks that require complex thinking and logical reasoning.

What’s more, sleep deprivation can cause cognitive disorders that can ultimately affect the overall quality of life. Below are some common types of cognitive disorders it is likely to cause [4].

Intellectual and Memory Impairments

Sleep deprivation affects your ability to learn and remember new information. When you sleep, your brain consolidates and strengthens new memories. If you don’t get enough sleep, it may struggle to retain new information. This can make it more difficult to learn and remember things, which can ultimately influence your performance at school or work.

Slow Reaction Time

Lack of sleep can cause slow reaction time because it can impair brain function and cognitive performance. Sleep deprivation causes your brain to be incapable of processing the information as quickly and efficiently, which can affect your ability to react to situations in a timely manner. In addition, it can also affect your judgment, decision-making, and coordination, all of which can contribute to work and car accidents.

Slow Thought Process

Sleep deprivation can affect your ability to concentrate and can ultimately slow down your thought process. It is important to get enough sleep to ensure that your brain is functioning at its best and that you can think, learn, and process information quickly and effectively. This will help ensure that you make better decisions and life choices.

Short Attention Span & Decreased Ability to Focus

Lack of sleep has an impact on your ability to pay attention and focus. When you are sleep deprived, your brain struggles to filter out distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. This can make it difficult to pay attention in class, at work, or when driving, which can lead to accidents or mistakes.

Other effects of lack of sleep include a weakened immune system, psychiatric disorders, and lower fertility rates. These conditions can become life-threatening if left untreated. Consult a doctor if you notice any of them.

The Best Ways to Improve Your Cognitive Ability

There are several ways you can improve your cognitive ability, but some of the best and easiest ones are by reducing stress, making positive lifestyle changes, improving your sleep hygiene, taking care of your physical health, and using proper medications. Let us look at each of these ways in detail.

Healthy Sleep Hygiene

Healthy sleep hygiene habits can improve cognitive ability by helping individuals get a good night’s sleep, which is important to several brain functions. You can improve your sleep hygiene by establishing a consistent sleep routine (go to bed and wake up at the same time every day), creating a relaxing sleep environment, and avoiding behaviors that can disrupt sleep, such as consuming caffeine or alcohol before bed. Practicing healthy sleep hygiene will help you improve your cognitive abilities and overall well-being.

Stress Reduction

Cutting off stress from your day-to-day activities is an excellent way to improve your cognitive ability. You can achieve that by taking breaks & finding time to relax, managing time effectively, and communicating with friends and loved ones. Additionally, practicing stress-reducing activities such as mindfulness meditation and deep breathing can also be helpful.

Lifestyle Changes

You can improve your cognitive ability by making certain changes to your lifestyle. Some changes you can make include eating a healthy diet, reducing stress, and avoiding behaviors that can impair cognitive brain function, such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. Other lifestyle changes you can make to improve cognitive ability include engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as learning new skills or playing board games or puzzle games such as crossword and Sudoku.

Physical Health Care

High blood pressure, a stroke, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes, among other health conditions, have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline. You can prevent that and even increase your cognitive ability by taking care of the physical aspects of your health. A great place to start is going for regular check-ups and screenings to identify and address those underlying health conditions before they begin to cause serious damage. Do not forget to engage in healthy habits such as exercising regularly (at least 20–30 minutes of jogging 3 times a week) and getting enough quality sleep.

Oral Medications

Oral medications such as Provigil (modafinil) and Nuvigil (armodafinil) are sometimes used off-label to improve cognitive ability. Although their effectiveness for this purpose has not been definitively established, many people across the world continue to use them for cognitive enhancements because they prove effective. Engineers, architects, computer programmers, data analysts, and celebrities, among other professionals from all walks of life, use these meds to increase alertness, enhance memory, and ultimately gain a competitive edge.

Provigil and Nuvigil are safe & effective and tend to work for most people who use them. However, they cost quite a lot of money. With the price of a 30-day supply (30 pills) reaching up to $1,000, most people have a hard time keeping up with the treatment. Luckily, the drugs are also available in generic versions that cost about 10X less. Generic versions are no different from their brand-name counterparts; they contain the same active ingredient, have the same mechanism of action, and provide the same benefits.

ArmodaXL and Waklert are two popular generic versions of armodafinil commonly used by healthy individuals to improve cognition. Most users have given them a thumbs up based on effectiveness and ease of use. In case you are wondering which is better: ArmodaXL vs Waklert, it may be best to try them both to determine which one meets your needs.

It is worth noting that oral medications should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare provider and should not be used as a substitute for healthy lifestyle habits that can support brain health and cognitive function.


Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your physical health, mental health, and overall well-being. It can lead to fatigue, irritability, and mood changes, and has been linked to several serious health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. What’s more, it can affect focus and lead to decreased productivity, as well as difficulty with decision-making and problem-solving. Overall, it is important to get enough sleep and prioritize sleep quality to maintain cognitive performance and focus and to support overall health and well-being.


  1. What Is Cognitive Health? Definition & FAQs. Retrieved: December 16, 2022.
  2. The Impact of Age on Cognition. By Daniel L. Murman, M.D., M.S. Retrieved: December 16, 2022.
  3. Cognitive Health and Older Adults. Retrieved: December 16, 2022.
  4. What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Mind. Written by Camille Peri. Medically reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD. Retrieved: December 16, 2022.